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Kathy Shaidle

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March 22, 2012 - 9:51 pm

“Thank” isn’t quite the word, so let’s just say I want to “credit” Canadian author and broadcaster Michael Coren for bringing the video below to my attention.

You see, earlier this month, columnist Peter Hitchens, comedian Russell Brand, and, from what I can gather, a cast of thousands took part in “a very strange encounter,” as Hitchens put it later, “presented as a debate but in fact not really one, more a sort of combative colloquy, streamed live by Google and Intelligence Squared (…) from a large hole in the ground near King’s Cross Station in London, underneath the offices of the The Guardian.”

There’s an “old Indian burial ground” joke in their somewhere. Surely the locale alone put the curse on the event before it even began?

As the video shows, there were also far too many participants on the roster, all clamoring to be heard on the topic of drug legalization.

Hitchens managed to get a few words in, expressing his skepticism about the disease model of alcoholism (a skepticism I don’t share, for personal reasons, but understand completely, also for personal reasons — AA having been hijacked over 20 years ago by “drum circle,” “inner child” whiners fixated on faddish phobias and neuroses).

Hitchens added — and here Bill W. and Dr. Bob would have agreed, in fact  — that addiction has a moral component.

Need I tell you what happened next? Hitchens continues:

These are perfectly arguable propositions and I think I made the case for them clearly and rationally. The response I received was not rational. It was a form of rage, mingled with incredulity. They thought everyone like me was dead already. How dare I still be alive? (…)

[Russell Brand] responded to my point about selfish rich kids with a tirade of personal abuse and the standard all-purpose false accusation of racial prejudice that is the universal sign of a person who has no good argument, and knows he has no good argument.

As his voice rose to a whine similar to the sound of an ill-tuned hand-dryer, he railed at me for daring to work for a newspaper he didn’t agree with (and which caught him out in a piece of behaviour which doesn’t exactly redound to his credit). It is amusing to be accused of bigotry by someone who fulfils its characteristics himself.

Behold, and brace yourself against cringing:

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I discovered this video at Michael Coren’s blog. (Yes, he blogs, along with writing books – distinguished biographies of literary greats, along with popular Catholic apologetics — and penning a weekly syndicated column and hosting a nightly national TV show.)

Above the video, Coren added his own tantalizing remarks:

I grew up quite close to the fraud [Russell] Brand. Believe me, his accent, his views, his claim to be a football fan, are all part of a carefully contrived persona. Most awful of all, he’s not funny. Here he is being ripped apart by Peter Hitchens, and responding to an intelligent set of criticisms by accusing Hitchens of being personal – he does this by being personal!

Oooooh! Chippy, chippy, chippy! I had to hear more (and express my confusion about Brand’s apparent popularity).

Coren duly responded at length to my nosy email, writing:

Brand does appeal to women – I know many who swoon.

I grew up in Essex, very close to Brand, and in similar circumstances.

We should begin with his accent, which is a fraud. He makes it sound far more cockney and working-class that it is, because he thinks it gives him street cred; it’s like David Cameron softening his words and trying to sound less posh. Absurd.

Similarly with his alleged love for and knowledge of West Ham football team. Celebrities pretend they like football, the ballet of the common man. But Brand seems to know nothing about West Ham, or the long link many of their fans have had with the far right. It’s another facade.

This pretty much characterizes his entire persona; lies about his background, his politics, his ideas. He’s not left-wing at all, but think that leftism is trendy — and he’s right — and gives him an aura of prestige and danger. Nor is he funny. While British comics smash their way into brilliance, he is still giving 1990s jokes. It works a little in North America, but the Brits saw through him long ago.

(As you can see, football — don’t call it “soccer” — is VERY serious business abroad, much like college football is to Americans. Some of Coren’s antipathy towards Brand comes into higher relief when you learn he is a lifelong Tottenham Hotspur supporter. The Spurs’ nickname, “the Yids,” originated in pre-speech code 1936, “when Oswald Mosley, leader of Britain’s fascist movement, led a march through London’s East End, calling ‘down with the Yids.’” Amazingly in nanny state England, the name has yet to be banned, and is still embraced by Gentile, Jewish and half-Jewish locals, like Coren himself.)

Anyway, Hitchens concludes his column about the incident this way:

The point is far greater than a simple matter of manners. The point is that this sort of treatment is the presage of suppression and censorship. Now they are merely shocked that I still dare to say these things, which they had hoped to make unsayable before now. The long collapse of the remaining conservative elements in the Tory party (now almost complete) means that the spectrum of permissible opinion, in public debate, is narrowing sharply, and I do not know how much longer I shall be allowed to express my opinions on major public platforms. The Brave New World grows closer, and the world a little darker, each day.

Indeed.

Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz had pre-sold many tickets to a speaking engagement in Toronto, set for April 24, but felt obliged to cancel due to “security concerns.” You may recall, as they did, the scandalous police malpractice that marred recent visits to Canada by Ann Coulter and other American conservatives. (It happens to “controversial” Canadian authors, too, conservative or otherwise.)

Luckily for us, Mark Steyn graciously stepped in as Cheney’s replacement — and Michael Coren will be hosting the event (and launching his new book.)

If you’re within driving distance to Toronto, here’s a sneak peak at what you can expect. (Hint: a piano-playing imam…):

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And I’d like to extend an invitation to Russell Brand to attend “Steynamite” as well. I’d love to watch him tangle with Steyn and Coren.

Alas, Brand has a tough time himself, getting into foreign countries and all.

To borrow one of Coren’s favorite expressions:

What larks!

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage by Featureflash / Shutterstock.com.)

(KATHY SHAIDLE is a blogging pioneer who runs FiveFeetOfFury, now in its 14th year. She's been called "one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our time," by MARK STEYN. Her NEW book is Confessions of A Failed Slut (Thought Catalog, 2014).
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